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Akhtar Chauhan, FIIA Introduction At the Habitat II World Conference on Human Settlements, held in 1996 United Nations Centre for Settlements (UNCHS) presented the Global Report on An Urbanizing World. It had some shocking statistics, which should shake any professional into a positive action. e.g. there are 100 million people without shelter in the world and about 600 million people are forced to living in dilapidated and unhygienic living conditions. It is in this context of homelessness and unhygienic conditions in the human settlements, that architects, planners and policy makers should understand the phenomenon of slums through in-depth surveys and analysis of slums, in order to learn critical lessons for shaping a humane habitat. Every problem has within itself the seeds of its possible solution, therefore, learning from slums, is an important step forward in resolving this unprecedented human and social issue. What is slum? Slum has been defined in legislation to include buildings and areas that are environmentally and structurally deficient. Slums are considered to be the result of multiple deprivation such as: a. illegal land tenure b. deficient environment and c. inadequate shelter Slums are the result of the gap between the demand and the legal and formal supply in the housing market. In absence of deliberate policy intervention the proportion of slum dwellers may increase in a rapidly urbanizing nation-scape. Not long ago, slums were considered to be one of the most serious problems affecting urban settlements in metropolitan cities in the developed and developing countries. Since 1987, the Year of the Shelter for the Homeless programme of the UN there is greater concern for the homeless and slum-dwellers. This has resulted in policy shift from earlier slum removal to slum improvement, slum-rehabilitation and slum development programme. National Commission on Urbanization (NCU) In Indian context, slums have attained alarming proportions in the large cities. The National Commission on Urbanization headed by architect Charles Correa estimated that in 1981 out of the total urban population of 160 million, 32 to 40 million people or 6 to 8 million household were living in slums. Which worked out to 20 – 25% of the urban population. Since then, it has gone up to 30 to 50 % in different large cities and metropolitan agglomeration. It was projected that by 2001, there would be 60 to 75 million people living in slums in India! The N.C.U. report suggested that rather than trying mere welfare approach, it would be more important to consider housing and infrastructure as productive investment. Since they are investment in an aspect that yields a
They are conceived as multi-functional living spaces. Its location must afford reasonable access to work-places. It must provide living space.C. N. I stayed in Gulbai Tekra slum community for a year. steep slopes of hills. Whereas most of the public and private sector housing is beyond the capacity of slum-dwellers and therefore. However. 5. along with services like water. in other words. Learning from Slums During my post-graduate studies at the School of Planning. I had an unique opportunity to participate in the struggle of slum dwellers with my fellow students. The homes in the slums are. b. and c. This enables them to have much higher densities without going higher than ground plus one or half storey. They are cheapest and most affordable minimal shelters made possible in a given area. railways and even airports! The slum-dwellers’ local actions to reclaim land for their shelters and community facilities. it is in total contrast to modernist approach of high-rise development with less ground cover. Most of the slum areas are no serviced initially by municipal corporations. they grow in areas which provide them with maximum of freedom to build. the best examples of the most optimum utilization of living space. the slum-dwellers transform most inhospitable and neglected urban land for housing and community building. perhaps. . drainage and energy are met over period of time. water supply. Ahmedabad in 1973-75. It must provide shelter from the elements. Slum dwellings are people’s own solution for their housing needs. The living spaces are not composed of typical rooms as mono-functional units. It is observed that slums use up to 80% of the land as ground-coverage for their housing. water and vegetation. teaches us the need for micro-planning for positive use of natural resources including land. The basic services of access. addressed the issue with the following emphasis for housing as minimum shelter: a. these services are extended over time as the slum-dwellers constitute a sizable urban population. roads and electricity. streams. In the process.U. The cost of land. The minimum shelters of slums are some the smallest dwellings possible. left over spaces near transportation network of road. As a typology.flow of services over time and they should be evaluated like any other productive investment. basic services and the minimum shelter are not only minimal but can be paid in parts over a period. Slums mushroom in parts of urbanizing area with minimum of administrative control. 2. This incremental infrastructure development is the key to growth of slums. In fact. sewerage. unaffordable. to consolidate the newly founded voluntary organization and to develop an in depth understanding of the issues involved. with over-lapping functions of living and family interactions. Slums’ utilization of urban land for housing calls for careful studies. drainage channels. These include land adjoining marshes. creeks. 3. 4. The following are some of the vital lessons that I have learnt from them: 1. Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT).
Precedents in India In Mumbai. This provides them with much needed spiritual strength to survive and struggle. Every slum has a niche. house-groups / rows and the slum community as a whole. It is a positive expression of people’s participation in development process. their limited technical expertise is put to the best creative use to meet their shelter needs. Development and maintenance of slums calls for on-going collective organization of land development. 9. Slums are vibrant communities of people. young and progressive architects have taken initiative in voluntary action groups to protect. assist and co-operate with the slum dwellers in their struggle to survive and develop in most difficult socio-economic and political situations. Here the slum dwellers upgraded their community through a co-operative effort assisted by young architects like S. However. group or community action through a critical analysis for its necessity. Das and Neeta Bhatt. limited only the ability and resources. The slum-dwellers use minimum building materials to create their living space. They have an ever evolving network of social institutions. 7. plastic sheets and other recycled materials. From the most minimal space for social interaction at the door step to the optimum community spaces for various social and cultural activities. Mumbai which is situated on a steeply sloping site. Often they use old and used tin sheets. country tiles. The slum dwellers and community make the conscious decisions for every individual. This freedom to build and meet the social and economic requirements through incremental growth is crucial to the success of the slums.6. is a prime example of such an endeavour. viability and priority as a sustainable development action. the former chief planner of the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) inspired many a young architect through his sensitive and humane approach to slums. 10. Slums are the constructive results of collective efforts of a group or community. They incorporate a whole range of social and community spaces and facilities.K. small shrine or a temple. shelter-making. obtaining basic services and ensuring social security. . They selected a simple dwelling type with a multi-functional living space with a kitchen alcove and a semi-private loft under a lean-to roof using stone foundations. Jaffarbaba Slum Rehabilitation project in Bandra West. 8. This enables the slums to sustain its development and consolidate its existence in an urban area. Slums are not built as a result of ego-centric gesture of an individual or a corporation. The project was awarded the first IIA Snowcem Award for excellence in urban architecture in 1991. timber rafters. This is consistently reflected in the incremental growth of dwelling units. The minimum shelters of slum dwellers are not static houses. They use easily available local building materials. brick walls and roofed with country tiles / roofing sheets. Architect planner like Datta Parab. They grow as the needs of the resident increase with growth of the family. joists and posts. mosque or church depending on their faith. Central to their social well-being is the concept of sacred space. At the core of the slums is a concept of sustainable development.
Austria. These concerns also provide the basis for the technical collaboration with the Institut fuer Hochbau fuer Architekten. At present. However. Nivaraa Haak Suraksha Samiti has been in the forefront of this epic struggle. The project won United Nations Habitat award for community up-gradation. a voluntary organization established the first “Nirmithi Kendra” or Building Centre in Kerala in 1986. Specialized academic and research programmes are required to be developed to sustain these efforts. more crucial issues are social. resulting in development of an appropriate urbanscape. Technische Universitaet Graz. Das. Perhaps. We. Doshi designed Aranya Housing for the urban poor which has won Aga Khan Award for Architecture. legal and political.V. one of the most relevant precedents is the movement for “ Building Centres”. HUDCO also extends aid to various projects through its design consultancy. Academic Collaboration Rizvi College of Architecture. Housing and Urban Development Corporation of India (HUDCO) extended the fiscal and technical support. the architects. The struggle for declaring housing as a basic human right is one of the foremost issue. architects like P. the issues of slums are not merely architectural or structural. 105 building centers are functional all over the country. The unemployed youth and socially committed young professionals came together to chart out a new movement of people’s participation in housing. since its foundation in 1992. . B. We need institutional support. is engaged in on going studies of the slum communities in Mumbai. Industry. need to take a stand on this global issue and pursue it to its adoption by the world bodies.K. Based on these studies. In Indore. This has had a tremendous impact on the transformation of not only the urban slums but also the other neglected areas and services. studied the process and patterns of slums to develop a concept of slum networking . The Cenral Government encouraged this experiment by grants. The objective was to disseminate information and skills to the local artisans and social workers about the innovative and appropriate building techniques. Governments and International organizations shall come forward with generous grants and funding to enable realization of the innovative and relevant ideas. In pursuance of innovation and appropriateness. Pursuit of Innovation and Appropriateness In India. Under the able guidance of Architect M. the students and faculty involve themselves in these studies at various levels. economic. a consulting engineer and coordinator of the project developed this concept to restructure the urban infrastructure. Arvind and Neera Adarkar have been active in the struggle for housing rights in Mumbai. infrastructure and commitment to succeed in this noble endeavour. an important administrative and industrial town in central India. As part of its mission of developing innovative and appropriate architecture. cultural. engineers and planner-researchers from Vastu-Shilpa Foundation established by Architect Balkrishna Doshi.N.At local level. It is hoped that the Universities. Himanshu Parikh. architects. The success of the pioneering project inspired the State Government of Kerala to develop such building centers in all the 14 districts of the State. The programme on Minimum Shelter is only the beginning of this on-going quest for humanizing the built-environment.
Some of these projects have won several awards. Learning from Slums: The article was published in the book “ minimal space – minimal housing” by Prof. This is the agenda for habitat action. It may also infuse the much needed spiritual quality in creation of a humane habitat. Austria in 1996 ISBN –Nr.. This movement has attracted some of the brightest young architects to involve themselves with the people in their struggle for minimal shelter and basic services. Peter Schreibmayer in collaboration with Johann Grabner. which may perhaps. planning. designing. be found in understanding. In conclusion. HUDCO has developed housing schemes for the urban poor.Joglekar. I would like to stress that we need a new insight and vision to evolve a more humane habitat in coming millennium. 3-901351-14-0 . published by the Technische Universitaet Graz. building and managing the minimum shelters of the slum dwellers and the rural communities.
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